June 03, 2014

Everyone likes to think of summer as an idyllic, carefree time when kids enjoy enriching family trips to museums, read great books and get plenty of active, outdoor play. But for far too many kids, summer has become a time of learning loss, weight gain and endless hours of unsupervised TV or computer time.

According to the National Summer Learning Association, it’s a problem we as a community and nation must address. Without opportunities for academic enrichment, kids can lose up to two months of learning over the summer. In fact, half of the widening achievement gap between low- and middle-income kids is attributable unequal access to summer learning experiences.

It’s why the Y of Central Florida has tackled the issue head on. Much more than arts and crafts, YMCA summer camp is a solid, educationally focused program that teaches reading, instills values and gets kids up and moving ─ mentally and physically. Working parents benefit, too, from the peace of mind of knowing that their kids are cared for by caring, well-trained counselors and mentors.

Last year alone, more than 22,000 local youth attended Y summer programs. These included our hugely successful YMCA/BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) reading pilot at McCoy Elementary, as well as the YMCA/Chase summer reading program at Union Park Middle School.

In both cases, kids gained nearly six months of learning in just six weeks ─ proving once again that the Y has the model, passion and expertise to replicate this success anywhere.

With a goal to expand summer camp enrollment by 20% this year, we’re determined to help even more kids excel. And we’re actively seeking parents, teachers and community partners to join us. Together, we can close the achievement gap, boost graduation rates and set kids on a trajectory for lifelong success.

Now that’s what I call an idyllic summer.

Jim Ferber
YMCA of Central Florida
President/CEO